Economic activity may have slowed as a result of the global lockdown, but the 20 employees at Technis have never been busier. “We’re working day and night,” says Wiktor Bourée, the company’s CEO. In late January, Technis saw the economic slowdown coming. “The signals from our suppliers – especially those in Asia – as well as our customers and people out in the field were clear : a major public-health crisis was coming that would deliver a huge blow to the economy. In mid-February there was still a lot of uncertainty about how exactly it would pan out, but by early March we knew what we were up against,” says Bourée. The startup, founded in 2015, didn’t wait for the Swiss government to introduce the lockdown measures to react. “First we took the steps needed to make sure that our business and our employees were safe. It was clear that we wouldn’t be the same company after the pandemic. We lost contracts that had already been signed – it was a tough period for everyone,” he adds.
People-counting systems prove to be a strategic technology
Once the peak of the crisis had passed, the company was able to take a more strategic view. “The way the pandemic was developing confirmed our prediction that people-counting systems would be important in the coming months and years,” says Bourée. His team enhanced their initial system with a screen that can be installed at a store’s entrance to display how many people are inside at any given moment. As long as the number of people is below the legal limit, the screen is green ; once the limit is reached, the screen turns red. “Our system includes a floormat equipped with sensors that counts how many people enter and leave, as well as a smartphone app that store managers can use to set the maximum number of people allowed in their stores. As soon as the number of customers exceeds this limit, the screen switches from a green ‘Go’ to a red ‘Stop.’ The idea is to offer companies a simple, reliable solution they can use instead of hiring a security agent to stand at the door,” says Bourée. It took Technis just two weeks to develop the screen, working in association with its regular suppliers. “The system components are made in either Europe or Asia. One of our European suppliers was even able to reopen,” says Bourée. Because Technis’ technology helps businesses comply with the Swiss government’s social distancing requirements, it has been classified as a public-interest organization. The screen it developed can also display important health-related information and advice.
A flood of new orders
The entire system – including the screen and floormat – can be installed and configured in just ten minutes. That ease of use is part of what has made it so popular, and orders have been pouring in since early April. “Over the past week we’ve been producing per day what we usually manufacture in a month,” says Bourée. And while his firm initially served customers mainly in France and Switzerland, he is now seeing orders come in from across Europe. “We’ve been contacted by companies in England, Spain, Portugal and Germany,” says Bourée. That represents a major step forward in a very short period of time. Several investors have also shown a keen interest in the startup – which is good timing, since Bourée will need to hire more staff if the trend continues.
In short, Technis is on track to achieving its five-year business development goals in just a few weeks. Bourée sees these short-term developments as “a great opportunity.” For the first time, the startup is in “a strong position in all our negotiations. For the past three weeks, we’ve been the ones setting the terms.”
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some risks involved. “Things are moving really fast and our growth forecasts are incredible. But expanding so rapidly can be dangerous. I’m trying to keep my eyes on the big picture as I make decisions, and I set up an advisory board to help me navigate the uncertainty. The board is made up of people with a lot of experience who give me different perspectives. And my whole team is really united – I’m extremely lucky.”
At this rate Bourée plans to move up the market launch of his system and hire the employees necessary to keep up the current pace. The next step will be to speed the development of systems designed specifically for the healthcare industry. “While this unprecedented situation has provided us with a great business opportunity, we’ll need to keep a long-term focus if we want our success to last. Moving out of our comfort zone is what prompts us to come up with inventive solutions,” says Bourée.
This article was originally published on www.innovaud.ch